EPMEPM: Customer Service

Communicate, Educate, Initiate!

Tracey Bulmer reveals her secrets to making sure your relationships with your tenants remain calm, happy and rewarding – for them, and for you!

As most Property Managers who have been in the industry for a while will agree, the job at hand can sometimes be very testing. A large component of this can pertain to the interaction of dealing with clients, namely tenants, who seem to want to see how far they can push our limits and spike our stress levels.

Have you considered though, that these tenants may not be here to make your life difficult but are merely reacting to the service they are not receiving from your office or property management department, and feel their expectations are not being met?

It seems the same issues are commonly raised by tenants who have had less than favourable experiences with their Property Manager. In all instances, the best way to resolve these issues is to ensure you communicate, educate and initiate. This will go a long way to avoid these situations recurring.

Common Issue Number 1: ‘Maintenance is Never Attended to’
On many occasions, we have been advised by our incoming tenants that this was their experience with the previous agent. Maintenance ensures that the owner’s investment is protected and does not devalue the property. We recommend tenants put all maintenance requests in writing. This paper trail records exactly the date and time the maintenance was reported and the issue to alleviate any disputes later on. The tenants are educated that we seek owner approval for all repairs and their request will be actioned within 24 hours.

Owners are educated about the importance of carrying out regular maintenance on their property. If an owner advises ‘they can’t afford to do the work’, we will discuss with them the benefits of having the job done now; for example, a water leak could result in serious damage if left unattended. The cost could end up being more in the long term, not only for the repair but also for damage caused. We remind them as well of their obligations as an owner to maintain the property under the ‘Act’.

Our tradesmen are notified and are followed up within a fortnight if an invoice is not received to check the job has been done.

Depending on the size of your rent roll, you may wish to block an hour a day to attend to and follow up outstanding maintenance items. The benefit of attending to maintenance regularly also ensures that when you carry out the routine inspection you are not bombarded with a page full of items that require repair.

Common Issue Number 2: ‘The Property Manager Never Returns My Calls’ 
This is something we constantly hear from tenants and something we even experience as property managers when we are trying to obtain rental references from other agencies. It is important to remember that these tenants are your clients. They can be the best advocate for your business, or your worst. Which would you prefer?

If you educate your tenants to email, fax, or put in writing any requests or maintenance tasks relating to their property, this will substantially reduce your phone call load. Alternatively, you can request they make an appointment with you if they need to discuss something with you.

We are all pressed for time, but a major part of our job description is to deal with our clients. Our office has a policy where we guarantee our clients that they will receive a return phone call by close of business. If we are unable to meet the guarantee on that day (for example, because of training all afternoon) the client is advised and an alternative time is agreed for the call to be returned, say the following day at 10am, and this is put in the diary as an appointment to make that call.

It is fair to say, the more times you call someone without having your phone call returned, the more frustrating it becomes. Rather than speak to the tenant only on their third call when you know their state is going to be less than reasonable, avoid their angst and take the call or return the call in the first instance. When phone calls aren’t returned, it gives the client a feeling of not being important enough, or that your care factor is not there. Maintaining a relationship with the tenant during the tenancy can ensure that when issues do arise they are dealt with more easily because the client feels they can communicate openly with you. Again, it might be worth while blocking times out during the day to return calls.

Common Issue Number 3: ‘The Agent Wants to Take All My Bond at Vacate’ Unfortunately, a number of tenants already have the preconception when vacating the property, that every agent is ‘out to get their bond’ due to past experiences.

If the tenant is made aware at commencement of tenancy of the importance of the ‘Entry Condition Report’, this is a great way to educate them about the vacating process and how the bond is refunded.

Prior to vacating, it is good practice to send them a copy of the Entry Condition Report along with the Exit Condition Report, a cleaning checklist and tips to get their bond back, as well recommending the names of professional cleaners and so on, if required. Some agencies also offer to carry out a pre-inspection before the tenant vacates to help a smooth vacate handover.

In our roles as Property Managers, we find that following these three simple components is crucial to maintaining great relationships with tenants and resolving issues that could get out of hand if not addressed early and quickly.

Communicate – keep your tenants updated with progress of matters at hand and return their calls the day you receive them or at your earliest convenience. Let them know that they are important and you care.

Educate – ensure your owners and tenants are informed of your office procedures and what level of service they can expect. Ensure to meet their expectations. It is when the levels of expectations blur or are not met, that issues arise with clients.

Initiate – take action as promptly as you can. Return the call, make the call, organise repairs as they are reported – be proactive, rather than reactive in your role.

Deal with all matters as you would like them to be dealt with if the shoe was on the other foot. You will find that these issues can be overcome more easily if you have a good relationship with your tenant. This can be established by communicating, educating and initiating, so when sticky situations arise it is easier to handle them amicably and the tenant will be more responsive.

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